The ocean has stirred popular imagination like no other feature of the natural world with the exception of space. From the myriad of ocean-dwellers, Hollywood chose a handful to recreate on screen, adding layers of drama and spectacle to their lives and aquatic habitats through dozens of animation and live action flicks. Inspired by books, true events and screenwriters, these powerful and moving tales have been adapted many times over feature some of the most memorable central characters of all time.
Many adaptions, only one for the ages
Every movie on our list has spawned waves of big screen and TV adaptations, franchises and sequels with results swaying between cheesy and blockbuster. Those that made the final cut are the silver screen ocean stories that have unarguably captured our imagination for life.
1. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
The Nautilus ventures into a strange undersea world of spellbinding adventure! Sci-fi meets big budget live action spectacle in the original Walt Disney movie of Jules Verne’s eponymous adventure tale about fantastical machines, giant creatures and one of the greatest villains of all time. Current publisher of the book, Penguin Random House remarks the book is ‘a literary stepping-stone for generations of science fiction writers’. With source material like that, the makers took on a mountain of expectations and excelled, winning Academy Awards for Production Design, Visual Effect and Editing.
More adaptations followed down the decades, none matching the magnificence of this big screen milestone. The creature star is undoubtedly the giant squid, but the movie does remarkably well in creating a visually rich screen narrative of the book.
Watch it on Disney+
2. Moby Dick (1956)
A long list of movie makers have tried their hands at recreating this evergreen bestseller onscreen, but few did with the passion of John Huston behind the camera and Gregory Peck in front of it. Huston’s 1956 Moby Dick wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last, but is the highest rated so far, scoring 7.3 on IMDB and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Chris Hemsworth starred in the contemporary remake, In the Heart Of the Sea, as late as 2015. But 65 years later, John Huston’s Moby Dick continues to woo audiences and critics alike to its compelling adaptation of Herman Melville’s tale about a seafarer captain’s obsession to extract revenge from an albino sperm whale.
3. Jaws (1975)
The most sinister shark created for cinema will forever be Steven Spielberg’s creature in the first instalment of Jaws. Special effects in 1975 cannot compare to modern movies, but the eerie soundtrack and Spielberg’s ingenious methods with the camera make for a chilling motion picture that terrorised theatre audiences and beach goers for years. A ground breaking movie, Jaws is cited often as having contributed to the image of sharks as man eaters.
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max
4. The Abyss (1989)
1989 was the year that gave the undersea sci-fi horror genre a boost with mostly average, but one masterpiece. A civilian diving team in search for a lost nuclear submarine unintentionally discovers an aquatic alien species. With a premise of this kind and Cameron’s penchant for perfection, the outcome resonated with sci-fi fans the world over despite an average run at the box office. Stunning underwater cinematography, brilliant acting, a dramatic script, and the technologically exemplary giant aquatic aliens make The Abyss an ocean creature feature for the ages.
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and HBO Go
5. The Little Mermaid (1989)
What’s not to like in a melodramatic musical about a mermaid’s trials and tribulations? Nothing really if you count the insipid retelling of Ariel’s life and adventures in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008). Disney’s first big screen Little Mermaid released in 1989 to critical and public acclaim, and has since been a staple must-watch kids/family movie and the most phenomenal movie adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale. 1989’s animated Ariel rebels against her own father, journeys beyond her underwater world to the surface, falls in love with a prince, and sings her way to a happily ever after tale that few animated movies have matched to this day.
Watch it on Disney+
6. Finding Nemo (2003)
Pixar knows how to make animated movies that win, but Finding Nemo changed how an entire generation saw fish. The story of a young clown fish’s adventure in a world far away from his own, and the friendships and associations he forges on his journey make for spellbinding viewing for kids and adults alike. Starring a timid boy clownfish, a forgetful Pacific blue tang fish, an adventurous little turtle, wise-guy crabs with an Aussie accent and a school of some of the most memorable animated movie characters ever. Not everyone in the world may have watched their antics, but those who did tend to never forget.
Watch it on Disney+
7. Aquaman (2018)
A predictable story of an underwater world that straddles the seven seas and its reluctant heir to the throne cum superhero, the Aquaman movie fulfilled every dream of its comic book fans, and did more for DC studio than most superhero features it made. Set in the mythical world of Atlantis, the James Wan directorial makes for an entertaining watch with its convincing underwater sequences and stunning visual effects.
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go and Hulu
We’re in the middle of our voyage across the oceans. Discover little-known wonders, help your kids to learn with fun, and keep coming back for more ocean-inspired fun and excitement all through this week.
Deetox.com is going to the ocean
This week, Deetox.com takes you on an exciting, enlightening and entertaining voyage across the oceans. Follow us through June 22 to June 28 as we deep-dive into the mysteries and wonders of the vast water bodies that make our planet blue, create ocean-inspired crafts, and examine ocean-themed pop culture. All hands on deck!